A discrimination lawsuit against Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s Corp., filed in 1998 by a former restaurant manager infected with the HIV virus, is being retried in court in Cleveland. Russell Rich, 41, of Akron initially won a $5 million judgment in 2001, but the Ohio appeals court overturned the verdict and ordered a retrial because of improper jury instructions.

Rich, who began working for McDonald’s when he was 13, rose quickly through the ranks at a franchise unit in Stow, and was hired by corporate McDonald’s to turn around a struggling store in Minerva, according to published reports. Rich alleged that after his supervisors learned he was HIV positive, they created a hostile work environment by forcing him to work long hours, restricting him from handling food and canceling his medical coverage.

Cuyahoga County Judge John T. Patton reportedly placed a gag order on the attorneys and Rich at the beginning of the trial. In a prepared statement, McDonald’s spokesman William Whitman said the fast-food company does not tolerate any form of discrimination and that the lawsuit is without merit.

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